Jail warden tried to strangulate me: Asia Bibi

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - 16:18

Islamabad: Asia Bibi, a Christian woman
sentenced to death under Pakistan`s controversial blasphemy law, has claimed that a female jail warden had tried to
strangulate her following an argument.

Asia also said she cooks her own food in prison due to
fears among authorities that she might be poisoned.

"I live in a confined cell. I am allowed to go out for
only 30 minutes every day, and allowed to meet my family for
one hour every Tuesday," Asia said in an interview with Masihi
Foundation, a Christian group that works for the rights of the
minority community.

"I am given raw material to cook for myself, since the
administration fears I might be poisoned, as other Christians
accused of blasphemy were poisoned or killed in the jail," she
said in response to questions sent to her by the rights group.

Asia said authorities had recently suspended a female
warden who tried to strangle her after an argument over a
"minute issue".

She said Islamic clerics had offered a bounty of about USD
8,000 to anyone who would kill her.

The 45-year-old mother of five is currently on death row
in a prison in Punjab.

A court is yet to begin hearing her appeal against her
conviction.

Asia was sentenced to death last year after being
convicted under the blasphemy law for allegedly insulting
Prophet Mohammed.

She denied the charge and said she was framed by a group
of Muslim women with whom she had a row.

The women were working in a field with Asia when she was
asked to fetch water.

The Muslim women refused to drink the water brought by
Asia and, during a subsequent quarrel; she was accused of
insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Asia described the blasphemy law as a "manmade law" that
was misused to settle personal vendettas.

She said it "should be repealed or at least amended" as it
had "claimed so many innocent lives".

She further said the situation of Christians in Pakistan
is "not very good".

The Christians, especially those in villages, are
"mistreated, abused and framed for false cases as they cannot
afford to fight for their rights".

Asia said she was "assaulted and harassed by the police"
after her arrest.

"I was in a state of shock for many days. I fasted and
prayed. My family has been in trouble; they have been moving
one place to another.

"But I have forgiven the Muslims who put me and my family
in this situation," she said.

She said she was praying and fasting to be with her family
so that she could "hug my daughters, kiss them".

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who backed a call for Asia
to be pardoned, was gunned down in Islamabad by a police
guard who said he was angered by the politician`s criticism of
the blasphemy law.

According to official figures, 131 people are being held
in jails across Punjab on blasphemy charges.

Eleven of them have been sentenced to death, including
Asia, who was the first woman to be given the penalty.

Though no one has been executed after being convicted
under the controversial law, 35 people, including Taseer, who
were accused of committing blasphemy or defending those
charged with blasphemy, have been killed between 1990 and
2011.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - 16:18

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